Chicago just got stomped.
The Windy City's bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics was today soundly voted down by the International Olympic Committee. Chicago finished fourth out of the four finalists -- Rio de Janeiro finished first, which will give South America the right to host that continent's first-ever Olympics.
What's most interesting about this vote was how even Madrid (No.2) and Tokyo (No.3) finished better than Chicago among the four finalists. Although Chicago wasn't widely considered the favorite -- you'll read a few stories that say that, but in reality Chicago and Brazil were co-favorites -- it was expected to make at least the final three among veteran Olympic observers.
Was it because the Chicago bid was bad? No. I once got a preview of the Chicago bid while in the Windy City interviewing some Olympic athletes (I have covered four Olympics in person for The Observer). The Chicago bid was extremely solid. Much of downtown Chicago would have been transformed. The transportation, the venues, the logistics -- it was all well-organized and imaginative.
And for the IOC vote in Copenhagen this week, America brought out the heaviest hitters with Chicago connections that it could have possibly mustered -- Barack and Michelle Obama. Oprah Winfrey was heavily involved in the Chicago bid, too.
But of course the other bids were very good as well -- it was a heckuva Final Four -- and Rio's carnival atmosphere is something Chicago really can't duplicate.
There's another force at work here, too, though. Many in the U.S. Olympic movement have long privately grumbled that the IOC has an anti-American sentiment and that it usually favors European countries. (New York, which bid for the 2012 Olympics, was beaten a few years ago for the right to host those Olympics by London).
But it's also true that the last two times America held the Olympics -- the Summer Games in 1996 in Atlanta and the Winter in 2002 in Salt Lake City -- the former site was bombed and the latter was marred by a bid controversy.
In any case, I feel sorry for the U.S. Olympic leaders who put so much time into this bid (as well as the U.S. individual sport organizations, such as the U.S. canoe/kayak group based in Charlotte, which will not be able to gain the monetary benefits from a home-country Olympics).
I know a tiny bit how they feel. Once in eighth grade, I entered a public-speaking contest. I think I was the only one in my school who bothered to enter, so I advanced to the regionals. There were a total of 4 contestants, and it was held at the local library.
I worked on my speech hard, gave it my best... and finished dead last. Fourth out of four.
Thirty years later, I still remember the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when those results were announced. On a far bigger stage, those involved in Chicago's unsuccessful bid won't ever forget this loss, either.
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